Denim Day highlights sexual assault awareness at USF

Letters written by students at the Survivor Love Letter workshop. PHOTO COURTESY OF @USFCA_REPS ON INSTAGRAM

Last week, students donned head-to-toe denim outfits in support of sexual assault awareness month (SAAM). Resources, Education, Prevention, and Support (REPS) hosted the event at Privett Plaza as a culmination of their work to promote awareness throughout the month and to  “emphasize the support and respect and the care as a community that we want to see for survivors,” said fourth-year psychology student and USF REPS intern Stephen Gould. 

REPS is a student-based organization whose mission is to, “End sexual violence on campus through connecting students to resources, educating our community, preventing and intervening in disrespectful situations, and providing support to one another,” according to their website. Led by Deputy Title IX Coordinator Trina Garry, REPS hosted a series of events during April with various organizations on campus to expand the sexual assault awareness conversation.

REPS focused the week’s discussions around “how to support a friend,” and “the norms and behaviors that normalize misconduct on campus, and how we can disrupt them,” said Garry. 

Denim Day began in the 90’s and spotlights the story of an 18 year old girl in Italy who was sexually assaulted by her driving instructor while wearing tight jeans. She was told that “she was asking for it” and that it happened “because of what she was wearing.” Now, millions of people stand in solidarity with her annually on April 26 by wearing as much denim as possible. REPS’ Denim Day event on Privett Plaza educated students on the history of Denim Day and responded to concerns about USF’s culture in relation to sexual assault. 

Justin George, fourth-year marketing and media studies student and USF REPS intern, told the Foghorn that a major student concern relates to the athletics department, “Which is totally justified, and we understand completely,” he said. “However, being in this position as a REPS intern, I have been able to meet with different people in athletics that feel strongly about this issue and there’s so many athletes here at USF that have been supporting us.” 

On September 30, 2021, Sports Illustrated published a report that detailed over two decades worth of alleged sexual misconduct by the University’s men’s soccer team. The following year, a lawsuit was filed against former baseball coaches Nino Giarratano and Troy Nakamura by anonymous former baseball players, alleging a highly sexualized environment. 

USF Athletics collaborated with REPS through a screening of the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” a film that explores themes of sexual violence, on the Ulrich Field and Bendetti Diamond. 

Gould said, “In the past there has been a lot of controversy, and issue of course, here at USF between athletics and Title IX, so to see that unity was really, really special.” 

There were a variety of other Denim Day events hosted by USF organizations including Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), the Delta Zeta sorority, and USF Rotaract. 

REPS also invited two outside organizations, Black Women Revolt and Le Case de las Madres, to the event. Black Women Revolt is an SF based-domestic violence agency that provides aid to Black women and families who might be experiencing or healing from domestic violence. Taylor Stommel, a youth domestic violence coordinator at Black Women Revolt said, “Black women are more likely to be impacted by domestic violence and less likely to access services so we’re looking to fill that gap.”

Another organization working to raise awareness is the Office of Student Conduct, Rights and Responsibilities. Assistant Director Emily Gove told the Foghorn about the amnesty policy within their office and how it applies to sexual misconduct here on campus. The amnesty policy covers two different areas: if students are illegally drinking or smoking on campus and someone needs medical help, students can feel comfortable calling for the help that they need. Students would still be met with a conduct officer, but the office’s mission is to encourage students to keep each other safe. “Sometimes students can be worried that they were intoxicated at the time of the assault, or smoking marijuana, but this is covered under our amnesty policy, and the university would not focus first on the alcohol or drugs,” said Gove. 

Delta Zeta, a sorority here on campus, tabled at Denim Day to help promote a safer community. Audrey Watson, second-year English major and member of USF’s chapter of Delta Zeta said the sorority’s main concern is “that [sexual assault survivors] do not have the support and the love that they deserve.” Watson was front and center at their table, ready to answer any questions students had. 

REPS hosted other events for SAAM including four weeks of events based on REPS’ themes of healing, connection, movement, and growth. Throughout the month students participated in events writing letters to survivors, practicing yoga as healing, and learning self-defense.

Deputy Title IX Coordinator Trina Garry affirmed that sexual assault awareness does not begin and end in April. “Supporting survivors is something you have to do all year long, it’s not just in April, it’s not just on Denim Day, it’s showing up for the people you care about,” she said. 

If you would like to get in contact with the Title IX office, send an email to titleIX@usfca.edu. The National Sexual Assault hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-5673.

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